MIAMI, June 16 (UPI) -- Forestry officials say they're hoping the rainy season will arrive in Florida soon to douse the tinder-dry conditions that have sparked a string of wildfires.
The string of wildfires sparked by weekend lightning strikes burned nearly 5,000 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, adding to the hundreds of thousands of acres burned since January, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.
With the state fighting some 310 active fires, Gov. Rick Scott this week declared a state of emergency.
Since January, the state's Forestry Division recorded 3,283 fires that burned 188,148 acres of state lands and 210 fires that have burned 56,535 acres of federal lands.
"We're getting as many fires in the last 30-to-45 day period as we will in a typical wildfire year," Forestry Division spokesman Gerry LaCaverra said.
Bob DeGross, spokesman for the Big Cypress National Preserve, said lightning sparked four fires during the weekend. The largest, the Monkey Farm fire, has consumed 2,800 acres, while the Oil Pad fire threatened several back-country camp areas.
Crews were burning backfires and using off-road vehicle trails as fire breaks, but containing the blazes would be difficult after a severe drought that water managers say ranks among the worst in 80 years. Even the deepest parts of the Everglades National Park are dry, DeGross said.
Rick Anderson, Everglades fire management officer, said the park brought in a tanker plane to quickly douse small fires because of the tinder-dry conditions But he told the Herald fire risks will rise until the rainy season starts and thunderstorms drop enough moisture to replenish water levels or douse lightning-ignited fires.
"It's so dry that any fire that escapes the initial attack is going to get large, expensive and do extensive damage," Anderson said. "Until the muck, until the hammocks, until the sloughs start getting wet, we're going to have to be very vigilant."